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Pandemic Creates Busy Tax Season for Local Preparers

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DES MOINES, Iowa — The pandemic’s delay to the start of tax season is causing some busy workdays for local preparers. The IRS began accepting and processing 2020 tax returns last Friday, Feb. 12. 

Deb Ostrem is a certified tax preparer who works out of her home and has about 1,500 clients. She said there’s been a lot of changes this year when it comes to stimulus checks and even an issue with unemployment.

“When [Iowa] Workforce Development originally sent out the unemployment forms for people to report on their taxes, they were all wrong,” Ostrem explained, “because they had forgotten to put in the CARES act money that was supposed to be on the 1099s. So those just came out around Feb. 6, so I had to hold on to about 100 returns waiting for the new forms to come out. So it’s been a pretty busy last two weeks for sure.”

Ostrem said one of the biggest challenges is to accommodate the physical distancing. She has a shield up on her desk for safety and says it takes longer when she works with people over the phone or via email.

Another thing that takes time is explaining to her clients what has happened and what is coming up.

“The stimulus has been one thing I’ve had to explain to every single client,” Ostrem said. “Just so that they understand why they didn’t get the full $1,200 per person, or why they didn’t get the $600, or based on their income was it really from 2019 no it was based on 2020 which we’re just filing now. Those kinds of things are the things that you just have to take the time to do, and most of them understand.”

Ostrem said the stimulus is not taxable, so people don’t have to pay on it.

Tax experts say if you qualified for the second stimulus check but didn’t receive it, you’ll have to file for a rebate on your taxes. That will be added to your refund or applied towards any taxes you owe.

The tax deadline is April 15. If you remember last year, the tax season was extended. Ostrem doesn’t think that will happen again, so she reminds people it’s best to not wait.

“They’ve got til April 15 to get it done but the earlier the better is probably the way it is,” Ostrem said. “Everybody knows what tax season is all about. Everybody knows what the deadline is and so they just have to take some personal responsibility there to get it done, that’s for sure.”

Ostrem also advises people to have all the necessary tax documents ready for your preparer.

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